Optional Practical Training
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to your major field of study. If you want to work off-campus as an F-1 student, one way to do so is to be approved for OPT. And remember, once you are authorized to work, you must first have a Social Security number in order to be paid. Learn more about how to apply for a Social Security number. You cannot begin work on OPT until you receive your approval in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and it is within the dates listed on your EAD.
Who can apply for OPT
• You must have been a full time student for at least one academic year.
• You must currently be in F-1 status.
• You must be in good academic standing and be making normal progress toward finishing your degree.
• You must not have used more than 12 months of OPT in the past at your current degree level.
• You do NOT need to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT.
How long OPT lasts
You can get a maximum of 12 months of OPT for each degree level you complete. If you are studying within certain fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) you may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT.
When you can use OPT
You can use your OPT:
• before you finish your program (this is called Pre-Completion OPT)
• after you finish your program (this is called Post-Completion OPT)
• or a combination of the two, as long as the total amount of OPT does not exceed 12 months.
How long it takes to get OPT
You need to plan ahead in order to be able to use OPT. It takes around 3-4 months to get approved for OPT. It takes this long because:
1. You need your academic department to sign off on a request form (1-2 weeks depending on your department).
2. You need the OGS to prepare a new I-20 for you recommending the OPT (up to 2 weeks).
3. You need the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve your application (up to 90 days)
How you apply for OPT
If you are applying for OPT that you want to use before you finish your program of study, review the Pre-Completion OPT information.
If you are applying for OPT that you want to use after you finish your program of study, review the Post-Completion OPT information.
OPT and Planning Travel
Travel before your program end date (see “Program of Study” section for I-20s issued 6/29/15 and later) is the same as it has been: you must have all documents as listed on our travel and reentering the U.S. page.
If you want to travel after your program end date (see “Program of Study” section for I-20s issued 6/29/15 and later), you need all the documents as listed on our re-entering the U.S. page after you’ve completed your program.
You can also view this YouTube video to review what documents you need to have with you while traveling on post-completion OPT.